by: James Bella [ ]
The Year of the Waffenträger, or so it would seem. At least 20 of these weapon carrier variants were on paper with a small amount actually being built as prototypes and seeing action at war’s end, and as modelers we now have a good selection to choose from. Trumpeter has released a fair amount of these in the past year, and now Dragon has decided to jump on the bandwagon with the release of the Rheinmetall-Borsig weapons carrier packing an 88 Pak 43, which was built as a prototype. Running gear for this Waffenträger came from the Jagdpanzer "Hetzer" and the Praga motor was mounted at the right front.
Ardelt’s brainchild was a sound one, a way to transport various heavy guns and howitzers on a universal carrier, and also be able to fire the weapon while transporting. Protection against head-to-head encounters was minimal as these were not designed specifically for that purpose. First Lieutenant Ardelt lost his life in one of his Waffenträger’s while defending his home town of Eberswalde.
Having built a few Waffenträgers already, and knowing what a simple design this vehicle had, I was very surprised to see how absolutely packed the Dragon box was…but then again this is a DML Smart Kit. After glancing at the parts diagram on the instructions, and seeing a heavy amount of ‘blued out not for use’ parts I realized the box would be just about as full after the kit was built. Needless to say, the spares box will be thankful. A mix of new and old sprues goes into the making of this kit:
• 15 grey styrene sprues
• Lower hull tub
• PE fret
• Decal sheet
Another surprise is how simplistic the instructions are, 2 ½ pages covering 10 steps. I realize this is a low part count kit, but it was still a shock to see Dragon instructions so uncluttered! The most obvious mistake in the instructions is that sprue B is marked sprue F and vice-versa on the parts diagram, although all appears to be correct in the actual construction steps.
Two paint/marking options are included…well, really only one as the second merely indicates the optional gun shield…Hillerleben, Germany 1944 with an overall dunkelgelb and some weird white marks on the lower hull. Decals consist of three Balkenkruz, black with white outline. Being a ‘paper panzer’, have fun with how you finish and mark this one.
When this was first announced I was quite excited about what Dragon would offer. New tooling on the Hetzer running gear? Hetzer Magic Tracks? Maybe a prelude to a future release of an up-to-date Hetzer? Let’s see:
First the newly tooled parts:
Sprue A holds the upper glacis with a separate grill (intake?), the track guards which are smooth, lower hull hatches, upper hull plate, casemate floor and some odds & ends.
Sprue B has the casemate walls, one piece barrel, well detailed multi piece muzzle brake, travel lock.
Sprue C, actually two sprue C’s although shown together on the parts diagram, contain the firewall, steering lever, nicely detailed suspension components, new equilibrators although not indicated in the instructions.
The lower hull is simple, as is the real one, and the front access hatches can be modeled open if desired to view the spartan interior.
Last of the new parts is the small PE fret providing a very nice radio rack, drivers hatches with non-working hinges, ammo holder and the optional shield for the main gun.
Hmmm…no new wheels?
Sprues from previous releases:
Sprue A: 38(t) running gear which only the return rollers are used.
Sprue C x 4: road wheels, idlers and track links from the Hetzer, all used except the suspension components.
Sprue d x 2: Hetzer sprockets.
Sprue D: the infamous (to those that build the 38(t) and its variants) engine/interior sprue. Here we use the radio, seat and steering brake.
Sprue D: this one from the Nashorn of which we use a few gun parts.
Sprue F: another large sprue from the Nashorn that we take the 5 shells from (although the instructions call for 6!). Oh well, we’ll have an empty space in the ammo rack to give it that ‘in use’ look.
Sprue P: more gun parts from the Jagdpanther
Sprue RB: another common DML sprue holding communication components.
Both the newly tooled sprues and most of the recycled sprues are beautifully molded to the present day DML standard of quality. The 38(t), Nashorn and Jagdpanther parts are very well done. Pin marks are virtually nonexistent as is flash. Weld beads look great on the casemate with the walls being molded to a believable scale ‘thin-ness’.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, DML dropped the ball by including the 16 year old Hetzer parts. The road wheels, a major focal point, are soft in detail with a plain inside face. Granted, the hull side of the wheels are difficult to view but is expected to be detailed in modern day kits. The idlers are fair, sprockets not too bad although mine experienced some ‘short shots’. The track links, unlike fine wine, did not get better with age.
As far as accuracy, hey…it’s a paper panzer! Still, sizing up to Doyle’s 1979 drawings the kit is well within scale. The only discrepancy’s I noted were on Doyle’s drawings the rearmost return roller was between the 2nd and 3rd wheels, whereas the DML kit has them between the 3rd and 4th. Also, the rear corner angle of the casemate seems to be more like the 5-wheel Waffenträger carrying the 88, than this 4 wheeled version. Small nitpicks.
All in all, a decent kit except for the wheels/tracks. My high expectations were shot down by the outdated Hetzer parts. Personally, I’ll have to replace the road wheels and tracks with AM parts bringing the cost much higher than it needed to be. DML could have produced new tools for these parts (let the old Hetzer rest in peace already) and planned ahead for both more Waffenträger’s and a new Jagdpanzer. Recommended if you’re willing to spend time with the tracks or going the AM route.